Aston Martin Time Line

Aston Martin History

When Aston Martin founder Lionel Martin first started building cars, the specification was for "a quality car of good performance and appearance: a car for the discerning owner-driver with fast touring in mind, designed, developed, engineered and built as an individual car". It is a principle that exists to this day.

The initial objective of the partnership formed in 1913 between Robert Bamford and Lionel Martin was the sale and preparation of Singer Cars, for hill climbing and racing. It was Martin's own successful performance at the Aston Hill Climb in Buckinghamshire that was to give the cars he went on to produce their famous name: Aston Martin.

Following the acquisition of premises in Henniker Mews, South Kensington, London, plans to build a car were announced in 1914. Fitted with a Coventry Simplex side-valve engine, the first Bamford & Martin car - later known as "CoalScuttle - appeared the following year.

After the 1914/18 War, work began again at the new premises in Abingdon Road, Kensington. Count Zborowski sgreed to provide finance for the company, which enabled the building of two Grand Prix cars to contest the French Grand Prix in 1922. In the same year, on 24 May, an Aston Martin, affectionately know as "Bunny" broke 10 world records at Brooklands, during a run os 16 and a half hours, averaging 76.04 mph.

By 1924 the company was offering sports and touring models, which soon gained a reputation for long life and reliability. The Charnwood family held what remained of the company after the departure of Lional Martin in 1925 and it was Lord Charnwood who, with Augustus Cesare Bertelli and William Somerville Renwick, was to form Aston Martin Motors in new premises at Victoria Road, Feltham, Middlesex, during 1926.

The famous international model has evolved by 1929 and this established new standards for roadholding and handling. Bertelli sustained a vigorous and successful competition programme ​and in 1932, he and Pat Driscoll won Biennial Cup in the Le Mans 24 Hour race. Charles Martin and Charles Brackenbury also won the cup in 1935 when they finished third overall and established a 1.5-litre class record, which was not broken until 1950.

Towards the end of 1932, the company passed into the hands of Sir Arthur Sutherland, whose son, Gordon, took on its management. But this time, the international had been followed by the equally famous Le Mans model. A Mark II version appeared in 1934, from which was developed the famous Ulster model. 

Early in 1933, a prototype was built using, for the first time on an Aston Martin, independent front suspension together with a Cotal electric gearbox. It was all packaged in an early form of space-frame. This car, known as the Atom, was later to form the basis of the first generation of post-war Aston Martins.

In 1947 the company was taken over by David brown, Chairman of the David Brown group of companies, and the 2-Litre Sports entered production the following year. It was decided to enter one of these cars in that year's 24 Hour sports car race at Spa. Driven single-handed by 'Jock' St John Horsfall, it scored an outright victory. 

At the end of 1947 David Brown also acquired Lagonda. Despite its continental sounding name, Lagonda has always been a British car, the name being an echo of founder Wilbur Gunn's early life at Lagonda, Spring, Ohio.

In 1898, Gunn produced a small, single cylinder engine to power his bicycle, it was built in the greenhouse of his house in Staines., the site that was eventually to become the Lagonda factory. The Motorcycles followed and then, in 1904, came the first of his Tricars.

The famous V12 Lagonda, introduced in 1937 - two years after Lagonda had won Le Mans with the 4.5-litre, six-cylinder model - was a massively powerful model with independent front suspension and many other advanced features. A new smaller Lagonda appeared  in 1945 with a 2.6-litre, twin overhead camshaft engine. The engine, designed under WO Bentley's supervision, was to play an important part in the post-war history of both Aston Martin and Lagonda.

David Brown

In April 1950 the DB2 was announced, fitted with the Lagonda-derived engine. At Le Mans the DB2took equal first in the index of Performance and won its class. Both marques were now being built at Hanworth Park in Feltham; in 1954, however, David Brown bought Tickford Motor Bodies in Newport Pagnell, which was to become home to Aston Martin Lagonda for almost half a century.

In 1957, the DB MKIII superseded the DB2/4 MKII. It featured disc brakes - a direct development of the company's racing experience. Since Aston Martin's success at Spa in 1948, the racing team had continued under the direction of John Wyer. The culmination if this programme was to phenomenal success enjoyed by the DBR1 that won Le Mans and the World Sports Car Championship in 1959.

The DB4 was introduced in 1958 with a 3.7-litre. aluminium alloy engine designed by Tedek Marek and to create a high level of torsional stiffness without excess weight, it featured a tubular 'Superleggera' frame inspired by Italian coachbuilder Touring. A variation of this platform chassis was also under the Lagonda Rapide.

In October 1963, the DB5 was introduced, using a 4.0-litre version of the engine. Probably the most famous DB5 was the car converted foe Iam Fleming's fictional character, James Bond. Built for the film 'Goldfinger' and used, later in 'Thunderball', it incorporated machine guns, a passengers ejector seat and hydraulic over-rider rams and equipment for projection oil, nails and smoke.

The DB6 appeared in 1965 and , with its MK2 version, was to remain in production until 1970. The convertible version, known and the Volante, was the first European car to be manufactured with a power operated hood.

The DBS, launched in 1967, was the biggest advance in GT styling and desgin since the DB4,. Introduced with the 4.0-litre, six cylinder engine, it later evolved into the DBSV8 when Tadek Marek's 5.3-litre V8 engine went into production.

In 1971 the David Brown Corporation put Aston Martin Lagonda up for sale and, the following February, Company Developments, a Birmingam-based group of businessmen, took control. Sir David Brown become President of the company, while William Wilson become the new Chairman.

Production of the DBS and DBSV8 continued until 1972 when modified versions of the cars appeared. These were re-named the Aston Martin Vantage and Aston Martin V8 - neither car bearing the familiar DB prefix.

In 1974 Company Developments was forced to put Aston Martin Lagonda into receivership and at the end of that year production was halted while a buyer was sought. In June 1995 possession was secured by North American Peter Sprague and Canadian George Minden, shortly to be joined by Englishman Alan Curtis and Denis Flather. Immediate plans were put in hand to revitalise the company and a direct result of this was the appearance of a totally new Lagonda at the London Motor Show in 1976. With coachwork by William Towns, its strikingly modern appearance and very advanced specification made a considerable impact.

The following year saw the introduction of a very high performance version of the V8, called the Aston Martin V8 Vantage. In June 1978 a convertible version of the standard V8 was introduced and again called the Volante.

Early in 1981 Aston Martin Lagonda changed hands, when Pace Petroleum - a private petroleum company led by Victor Gauntlett - and CH Industrials, a public company chaired by Tim Hearley, took control.

In 1983 Automotive Investments - distributor of Aston Martin and Lagonda cars in the United States - purchased 100 per cent of the company, which it retained until October 1984, when the family of Peter Livanos took 75 per cent and Victor Gauntlett took 25 per cent.

Aston Martin Lagonda continued strengthening sales of the V8, V8 Vantage and Lagonda until they were joined by the 300km/h Vantage Zagato in March 1986. A convertible version followed 12 months later.

​In September 1987 it was announced that Ford was to purchase 75 per cent of the shares; the remaining 25 per cent were owned equally by the Livanos family and Victor Gauntlett, who was to remain as Executive Chairman and Chief Executive.

Walter Hayes with Sir David Brown and Aston Martin DB7

In October 1988, the Virage was introduced at the British Motor Show. Designed to take the company into the 21st century, it replaced the Aston Martin V8, which had been in production for 20 yers. A new Group C racing team was formed to compete in the 1998 World Sports Car Championship. Its final placing was almost creditable eight position.

In September 1991, long serving Executive Chairman Victor Gauntlett resigned and was replaced by Walter Hayes CBE, a former Vice-Chairman of Ford of Europe.

At the 1993 Geneva Show, Aston Martin announced the return of a DB model to its range for the first time in more then 20 years. The Aston Martin DB7 was named car of the show.

In February 1994, Walter Hayes CBE retired as Executive Chairman of Aston Martin and was succeeded by John Oldfield. On his retirement, Walter Hayes was named an Honorary Life President in succession to Sir Davis Brown who had died in September 1993.

During the summer of 1994 Ford acquired 100 per cent of the share capital and , to accommodate the DB7, a specialist paint and assembly plant at Bloxham in Oxfordshire was purchased. An all-time production and sales record was established in 1995 when Aston Martin Lagonda produced more then 700 new cars in a single year. Although, the DB7 accounted for most of these sales, a series of powerful often supercharged - V8 models were still being produced at Newport Pagnell. David Price succeeded John Oldfield as Executive Chairman in October 1995.

The world debut of the DB7 Volante at Detroit and Los Angeles International Auto Shows in January 1996 signalled the marques return to the North America market. In December Bob Dover joined Aston Martin as Chairman and Chief Executive. The success of Aston Martin in overseas markets was formally recognised with a Queens Award for Export Achievement.

In July 1998 Ken Giles was named as Managing Director. Major product introductions in 1999 included the launch of the first ever 12-cylinder Aston Martis, the DB7 Vantage and the DB7 Vantage Volante.

In July 2000 Dr. Ulrich Bez joined the company as Chief Executive. Early the next year the V12 Vanquish was unveiled t the Geneva Motor Show and production started soon afterwards at the revitalised Newport Pagnell factory. Two years later the DB9 was unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show - it was to be produced at an all-new, purpose-built factory at Gaydon in Warwickshire, which was also to replace Newport Pagnell as a company's new headquarters.

Gaydon spawned a second model with the introduction of the smaller V8 Vantage in 2005, In the same year, competition prepared DBR9s heralded Aston Martin's return to top class GT racing. The new race car tookGT1 honours on its debut at the 12 Hours Sebring and two years later achieved similar success at Le Mans.

Indeed, 2007 was a hugely significant year for Aston martin. The prestigious sports car manufacture was purchased by a private consortium comprised of David Richards, Investment Dar and Adeem Investment, ending almost 20 years as part of Ford Motor company.

The final Vanquish S rolled off the production line at Newport Pagnell in July, concluding over 50 years of Aston Martin production on the site. In August, the DBS, Aston Martin's ultimate luxury sports car, was unveiled at Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance. The year culminated with the opening of the first purpose built Aston Martin Design Studio, helping to secure cutting edge designs long into the future.

The Story Continues ...